All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle Brown tells the story of three women from the same family, each who is about to face major crises in their lives – crises that they hide from one another. Janice Miller is the mother of two girls and is married to a man whose pharmaceutical company was just floated on the stock exchange, moving them from well-off to majorly wealthy. Janice rose from nothing and dedicated her life to being the perfect wife, hostess and mother. She is the kind of woman who never has a hair out-of-place and throws the perfect soiree.
Appearances are everything to Janice and she holds her own in the enclave of Santa Rita, home to the affluent and elite. Then after all the sacrifices she has made being her husband’s right and left hand, he files for divorce on the day his fortune is made and reveals that he has been having an affair with Janice’s best friend. Suddenly Janice is on a downward spiral, deep in denial and turning to illegal substances to get her through the day.
Janice’s oldest daughter, Margaret, is in her late twenties, lives in LA and is the editor of her own magazine – Snatch – a feminist magazine for young women. She is up to her eyeballs in debt and owes thousands of dollars to her ex-boyfriend and numerous credit card companies. A high achiever her whole life, she is on the brink of losing everything she has worked so hard for. But she refuses to ask her parents for help. To rub salt in her wounds, all her friends have moved on from being struggling, poor twenty-somethings to seriously successful people. Margaret is desperate to hold onto her dreams, even if that means keeping up the pretence.
The youngest daughter, Lizzie, is fourteen and has her fair share of problems. Not only is she coping with her dad leaving and her mother starting to act increasingly erratic, but somehow she has gone from the overweight girl in class to a girl attracting a lot of attention from boys. The kind of bad attention that can lead to all sorts of labels. Lizzie calls her sister Margaret to come home and help with their mother. Now there are three ticking time bombs under the same roof.
All We Ever Wanted Was Everything is the second book I’ve read by Janelle Brown. I recently reviewed her second book This is Where We Live which I thought was a great read. So was this book. It is a book that is completely character-driven. The Miller women are frustrating but you really do care what happens to them. The book is told from the point-of-view of each character and the tension builds and builds, carrying you forward through the pages.
Again, as in This is Where We Live, I got irritated by the characters’ inertia when they were faced with problems. They are certainly a family who like swimming in denial and not facing things head on. But I suppose there are a lot of people out there who would watch their debts rise and do nothing or who would want their cheating husband to return home so they could keep up appearances. It had a ‘Desperate Housewive’s feel without the far-fetched plots. This book examined the stuff that can and does happen to people every day – regardless of whether they live in the lap of luxury or not.